Sydney has been Australia’s most populous city for over 100 years, taking the title from Melbourne in 1905. But now, due to a shift in boundaries, Melbourne is once again Australia’s biggest city. After the 2021 census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) updated Melbourne’s Significant Urban Area (SUA) to include the formerly regional area of Melton.
The ABS defines a SUA as an urban centre with a core population of over 10,000 people. After the change in boundaries, Melbourne’s SUA population was 4,875,400 in June 2021, while Sydney’s SUA population was 4,856,700. This puts the difference between the cities at 18,700 people.
This change also means that Melbourne actually overtook Sydney as the bigger city in 2018. Melbourne had a population of 4,817,016 that year, while Sydney had 4,789,055.
However, these boundary changes do not reflect the numbers of the Greater Melbourne or Greater Sydney areas, which take into account the functional area of the cities. For Greater Sydney, this includes the Central Coast area and the Blue Mountains. The population for Greater Sydney was 5,259,764 in 2021, whereas the population for Greater Melbourne was 4,976,157.
And yet, predictions estimate that Greater Melbourne will also over take Greater Sydney’s population in 2031-32, reaching a number of 6 million people. We can already see the growth in Melbourne’s numbers, as the city had the largest growth of people (806,800) between 2011 and 2021. Sydney followed behind with an increase of 650,800.
You can take a look at the population statistics here. The ABS will provide updates on Thursday April 20 to cover the numbers from 2022.